The Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle is a Grade 1 contest run on the meetings second day.
Won last year by Peddlers Cross, it’s open to four year old and above novices’, run over two miles and five furlongs, on the Cheltenham Old Course, with a total of twelve hurdles to be jumped.
10 Year Trends:
10/10 – were aged five or six
9/10 – were in the top six of the market
9/10 – won at least half of their hurdling runs
9/10 – ran first or second last time out
9/10 – had won over hurdles at 2m 4f and above
Oscars Well – J Harrington
6yo bay gelding
Oscar (IRE) – Placid Willow (IRE) (Convinced (IRE))
Never a factor in bumpers but stepped up on those performances to fill the runners up spot in a maiden hurdle at Thurles. Won next time, at Punchestown, with any amount in hand and closed the year with a Grade 1 success at Navan. Travelled with superiority that day but the horses in behind, all be it quite a way behind, have failed to deliver since. Cruised past the field and stormed clear in the Deloitte a fortnight ago, putting the well supported Zaidpour firmly in his place in the process. As a result, took pole position in the market, and it’s not difficult to see why. Although I wouldn’t put huge weight behind this point, it is worth noting that the one occasion this horse truly failed to fire is also the one occasion he encountered good ground.
Bobs Worth – N Henderson
6yo bay gelding
Bob Back (USA) – Fashionista (IRE) (King’s Theatre (IRE))
Useful enough bumper, who shot clear of a nice novice field on hurdling debut. No problem with a step up in trip when again a comfortable winner here on New Year’s Day. Made it two from two at Prestbury Park when returning to take a Grade 2, getting the better of Rock On Ruby with Backspin in fourth. Rider dropped whip on Rock On Ruby though, and argument could be made that Backspin didn’t show true colours either, so confirming that form isn’t necessarily a given.
[frame_right src=”http://www.cheltenhamtips.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/soyoung2-150×150.jpg” href=”#”]So Young[/frame_right]
So Young – W Mullins
5yo bay gelding
Lavirco (GER) – Honey (FR) (Highlanders (FR))
Won a Leopardstown maiden hurdle doing handstands on debut, late last year and only needed a brief shake of the reins to follow up at Punchestown. Very much the unknown quantity but has looked every inch a star in two runs to date. The down side would be a lack of experience, and the form of his races is probably worth very little but the potential is undoubted. Both races to date have been on testing conditions, and on breeding, no doubt some cut would be preferred but I don’t think it’s necessarily vital.
Rock On Ruby – P Nicholls
5yo chestnut gelding
Rock Of Gibraltar (IRE) – Elevate (UK) (Ela-Mana-Mou (UK))
Having found Oscar Whiskey too good on debut, went on to win three bumpers, included a listed contest only as far back as November. Made hurdling debut six weeks later in the Newbury fog, putting two previous wide margin winners to the sword in the process. Made up a lot of ground at Cheltenham in order to throw down a challenge to Bobs Worth and I’m of the opinion that had his rider not dropped the whip, it would have been mighty close at the line. Entered in the Supreme but I’d be surprised were he not to contest this.
Backspin – J O’Neill
6yo chestnut gelding
Flemensfirth (USA) – Oscars Princess (IRE) (Oscar (IRE))
Picked up by McManus after an effortless bumper win at Punchestown and made winning debut for new yard at Bangor in mid-December. Emerged from the fog well in command to land the spoils in the Challow Hurdle and assumed a lofty position in the market as a result. Couldn’t repeat that performance at Cheltenham last month but may have had mitigating circumstances; Having got in a bit of a stew beforehand, he failed to settle and was running on empty long before home. Not unthinkable he could turn the tables on the two horses ahead of him that day and of his three festival engagements, this is probably the most likely, but until confirmation on that is given, I couldn’t play on him.
Others of note:
Zaidpour is somewhat predominant in the betting but will surely tackle the Supreme so we move on to his conqueror two races ago, First Lieutenant. He prevailed between the two when landing the Future Champions but previously had disappointed markedly. His form doesn’t look nearly good enough and stamina is of concern so ultimately I think he is a shocking price. Minella Class followed a nice maiden hurdle win by scooting clear in the Tolworth. The second, however, continues to disappoint and the third failed to fire as a result of the ground. Having been outstayed by Aikman since, when upped in trip, I’d be surprised if he ran here. Speaking of Aikman, he may well find this a bridge too far, but if there is an outsider going to spoil the party, he’d be the one. Tornado Bob might have won last weekend had it not been for a shocker at the last, but he will need to take his form to a whole new level were he to triumph here. Al Ferof is probably Supreme bound and doesn’t convince with his jumping anyway, while Day Of A Lifetime won her maiden hurdle nicely enough but looks the distant second string, possibly even third string should Gagewell Flyer pitch up. He is three for three over hurdles with two Grade 2 wins among them, but think he has been cleverly placed by his master trainer and thus, doesn’t interest me here.
We may have been spoiled last year in comparison, but even discounting that, competitive this is not. A lot of the floaters in the market are probably destined for different races to this so I’ll focus at the top of the betting. There are a few too many doubts surrounding Oscars Well, for me to be considering his current prices and if my premise is correct, regarding the dropping of the whip, Rock On Ruby would obviously make more appeal than Bobs Worth, given the prices of the two. I’m close to certain this will be the race he takes on, but because the principle could be flawed, I’ll opt for dutching him with So Young. Although the limits of his talents are hard to assess on all evidence to date, and he’s probably priced up no more than fairly, I get the distinct feeling this horse is going places and I’m hopeful that the Cheltenham winner’s enclosure is destination number one.